A Recent Email I Received

I received an email last week from someone named Ruth. She gave permission to share her comments. Ruth has her own insight to living with fragrance sensitivity so I thought I would share her email, with a few comments:

I developed a scent sensitivity a few years ago, which surprised me, as I was a perfume wearer at the time (albeit very little, I still wore perfume). I was working with someone who drenched herself in perfume and I ended up in the emergency ward because I thought I was having a heart attack (I also had very bad headaches.) After that, I became intolerant of most every scent, no matter how minor. I have had a closed office at work since last summer and I am gradually becoming better able to tolerate minor scents, I suppose because I can escape many of the scents in my office and my body is getting a chance to rest and heal. I don’t get the bad headaches so much anymore, but I have breathing problems and am now trying a puffer, although I don’t think it does much good.

You’re fortunate to have a closed office. I wish the mechanisms of this disease were better understood. They don’t really know what causes the change to being intolerant to any scents.

This experience has provided me with a valuable education about respecting the rights and sensitivities of others. It’s almost mind boggling to me how little concern is shown by some individuals towards the health and safety of others. They just don’t get it, but then I didn’t a few years ago either. Having said that, if there had been an awareness campaign about this issue at my office at that time (we have one now, i.e. emails to all staff, notices in the washrooms, etc.) I would have complied immediately, without question. A number of years ago when being invited to a house party, I was asked to refrain from wearing perfume because another invited guest was sensitive to scents. I found it a weird request at the time (it was the first time I’d heard of scent sensitivities), but I complied and attended scent-free. However, I continued to wear perfume after that.

People like their scents and often aren’t willing to give them up. I’ve had people tell me they believe they are harmful, yet they still continue to use them.

What a difference a few years makes! I totally get it! Now my home is 99% scent-free, although I do occasionally use an air spray that is 100% lemon extract, all natural with no chemicals (you can buy it at Home Depot). I use this once in a while because my neighbours across the hallway use a ton of perfume and sometimes the smell drifts into my condo unit. The lemon extract seems to neutralize the smell a bit. And although I buy soap that is labelled scent-free, it still has a slight perfume smell. I can’t seem to find a soap that is completely fragrance free.

Have you tried Kiss My Face for soap? I use their Pure Olive Oil Soap. It has NO perfume in it and no perfume smell.

Sometimes it feels like a full-time job, or at least a part-time one, dealing with this issue. From dealing with colleagues, friends and family member who don’t get it, or don’t want to get it, to hunting down fragrance free products, to coming to terms with how restricted my life now is, it’s a lot of work. I find having this condition rather socially isolating; I have lost friends over this who would continue to wear perfume around me despite my pleas otherwise. I now avoid certain family members for the same reason. I avoid theatres and cinemas and certain stores where I used to like to shop.

Yes, it is more work. I can empathize there. But it’s what we have to do. You cannot go anywhere without thinking about what you may encounter. I’m often reluctant to attend parties, get into other peoples cars, etc. I’ve given up on movies too and have a long list of stores I will not shop.

On a positive note, I am learning to stand up for myself a lot more. When I travelled by train last Christmas, a woman wearing perfume began to sit down beside me and I asked her to sit somewhere else because of her perfume. She appeared offended but complied. I would never have been so assertive a few years ago. I now have a no-fragrance sign on my office door. I return all products that prove to be scented once I open them at home (even if I have to do battle with the store clerk, they get returned). I fought for, and won, the removal of scent-dispensers in the lobby and my hallway of my condo building. I do what needs to be done to preserve my health.

Good for you! I think many people are willing to accommodate other people’s problems, once they’re aware of them.

Anyway, I’ve written a book! I suppose you just wanted a few comments!

Not a problem at all. Feel free to comment at any time and at any length!

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